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Holiday lighting company decorates veterans’ homes for free

Ann Schmidt

After years of service to military veterans, Jeff “Doc” Dentice had the favor returned this year when Christmas Decor by Swimming Pool Services decorated his home for free.

The company -- a part of the Christmas Decor franchise -- decorated his Muskego, Wisconsin, home on Dec. 12 as a surprise, just two days before Dentice’s annual Christmas with the Vets VA Holiday Show at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, which he has been running for 32 years.

Dentice, who served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam as a medic, had been nominated for the Christmas Decor Decorated Family program by his best friend of 47 years, George Koerner -- who is also a Vietnam veteran.

“His motto is he will keep helping and serving veterans and veterans' families until he runs out of energy or takes his last breath,” Koerner told FOX Business.

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He said that Dentice has been helping veterans for more than 30 years, from co-founding a program for homeless veterans in Milwaukee to serving on several boards of veterans organizations and running websites for many of those organizations and events -- including the VA holiday show.

Nikki Burkhalter, who leads the Christmas Decor by Swimming Pool Services’ Decorated Families program, said it was clear when Koerner called her that he “just adores Jeff.”

“You can tell that they just have such a very strong bond, a really great friendship,” Burkhalter told FOX Business.

“George just had a lot of really great things to say about [Dentice],” she said. “He just really wanted to highlight Jeff this year and just kind of show Jeff how appreciative he is of all of his efforts.”

Koerner also told her that the rest of the community and people who know Dentice and his work would also be honored by the service.

“[He said] this isn't just for Jeff, it's for all the veterans,” Burkhalter said.

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This year, Burkhalter said her team was able to decorate two homes -- Dentice’s and another family in the area -- but she said they hope to expand their program in the future and decorate even more homes.

“When we can, we love to be able to give back to our community,” she said.

Ultimately, that’s the goal for the entire Decorated Families program across the country, Christmas Decor CEO Brandon Stephens said.

“When you look at our business, the word that comes to mind is impact,” Stephens told FOX Business. “We’ve been doing this for a long time and any time we decorate a house, it has a substantial impact on people. It has an emotional impact on people. It’s not just about untangling their lights, it’s more than that. It’s an emotional decision that people generally make whenever they want their home decorated.”

“The positive impact that the service has on people, we just wanted to carry that to a group of people that may be going without throughout a period of their life,” he added.

The Decorated Families program started back in 2003 by a franchisee in the Pacific Northwest who saw a need to help military families, Stephens said.

“Oftentimes they have one parent deployed and so it’s one parent there at the house, oftentimes there are children and so that’s hard enough,” Stephens said. “And so [decorating the house] is just one thing that, you know, oftentimes, they just stop doing it because they simply can’t. And so we started doing it.”

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Today, the company decorates close to 200 homes a year as part of its Decorated Families program. It has expanded to include other service members as well.

“A lot of our franchisees now consider first responders,” Stephens said. “We’ll do facilities on bases, we’ll take Christmas trees to military hospitals, those types of things. It’s kind of grown into some other areas.”

But ultimately, the program is just a way to appreciate “families who have sacrificed for the country,” according to Stephens.

“It’s really our way of saying thanks,” he said.

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